Commuting to Cal Poly – a different college experience

Story highlights:

  • Commuting to Cal Poly from home saves over $10,000 per year.
  • Students generally don’t feel they are missing out on a college experience.
  • Parents of students appreciate saving money and spending more time with their children.
  • Driving to and from campus can be a hassle.

When you think of college living situations, you probably imagine 20-year-old best friends struggling to get A’s in school while living in a messy house with dirty dishes and beer cans as decorations. At Cal Poly, this is most likely the scenario. However, there is a small portion of students that skip the dorms and commute from home instead. From Atascadero to Arroyo Grande, students choose to live at home with their family and drive to school each day.

Why live at home?

  1. Saves money.
  2. Free groceries & home-cooked meals.
  3. Higher quality of living.
  4. Easier transition to college.
  5. Avoid bad roommates.
  6. Privacy.

Saving $10,000 a year on rent

Forget the costs of tuition at Cal Poly, it’s the cost of living in SLO that is the real burden on your bank account.

Alejandro Saenz, first-year nutrition major, lives with his family in Grover Beach (15 minutes from Cal Poly) in order to save money on living and dining expenses. “Is it worth $10,000 to live with someone else you may or may not like and pay for terrible food? I don’t think so,” said Saenz.

Jade Zuspan’s story is a little different. Now a second-year graphic design major, Jade and her family moved from Colorado to San Luis Obispo just months before her time at Cal Poly started. Jade’s parents had decided if she were to attend Cal Poly, the family would all move together to SLO in order to get in-state tuition and have her live at home.

Jade now lives in Cedar Creek apartments where she pays for rent and groceries with her own money. Living at home rather than the dorms during her first year helped lower the costs for her family immensely.

Jade Zuspan's room in her parent's home in SLO

Jade Zuspan’s room in her parent’s home in SLO

Missing out on the college experience?

Although Saenz does not have a past experience to compare to his current living situation, he feels as though is not missing out on a big part of his college life. He spends most of his study hours away from home and has friends to spend time with on campus.

“To be honest I think it would be nice to get to know some people and always be around campus since I love Cal Poly”, commented Saenz.

Zuspan was limited to making friends within her major classes. “I feel that I missed out on being forced to get to know people I would not normally interact with and being fully immersed in college life,” expanded Zuspan. However, she enjoyed being able to the ability to get away from campus and fully relax at home.

On the other hand, Sayoa Jodar, second-year history major, had the opportunity to live in the dorms during her first year at Cal Poly and in an apartment with friends during her second year. Originally from Arroyo Grande (20 minutes from Cal Poly), Jodar plans to live at home with her father for her final years at school.

Hannah Kope and Sayoa Jodar moving into their freshman dorm

Hannah Kope and Sayoa Jodar moving into their freshman dorm

“I’m not going to feel like there’s a massive void in my life because I live 20 minutes away,” said Jodar. She would rather save the money she would otherwise use on rent for her study abroad opportunity.


The downsides

Walking 10 minutes to class versus driving 20 minutes to class will prove annoying for Jodar. She is “by no means a morning person” and is anticipating to find the drive tedious especially for early morning classes.

Although coming home to the friendly faces of your family is nice, Jodar said she will miss spending so much time with her roommates at her Carhill apartment. There is less effort to see college friends if you live with them versus commuting from home.

“I was not able to sleep in my own bed during the weekends and it all still felt like high school,” commented Zuspan on her living situation during the weekends. Commuting back and forth forced her to plan out her days so that she wouldn’t have to drive several times a day.

On an academic note, Saenz believes his living situation at home is a distraction from his studies. “I force myself to stay at the library on campus as much as possible including weekends,” said Saenz. Family, privacy, and television at home are enough distraction for Saenz to want to stay on campus much of the time.

Parents’ views

Parents of commuter students genuinely enjoy the time spent with their children at home. Amelie Zuspan said she was happy that Jade didn’t have to worry about paying bills like she does this year in school.

“I liked being able to have healthy food for her and help lighten her load by doing little things to help out,” added Amelie. Living from home the first year tends to make the college transition easier. Jade’s food allergies were another reason for her mother to want her to eat at home rather in the dorm cafeterias.

On the downside, Amelie was aware of the possibility of missing out on the dorm experience. “It made me feel guilty and sad at times that I couldn’t provide that experience for her,” said Amelie. Jade’s mother understand her independent personality and could tell that living at home wasn’t her ideal living situation for college.

“She’s my daughter and I love her and I will always be here for her. I think sometimes it’s difficult for young kids these days to make it with student loans and good jobs being hard to come by, I think that’s what family is for,” concluded Amelie.

Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo

Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo

Tags: Carhill apartments, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, commuting to Cal Poly, Cal Poly tuition

Greek Satellite houses: family away from home

Story highlights:

  • A satellite house is a residence in which the majority of live-in’s are associated with the same sorority or fraternity.
  • “Greeks may see themselves as simply living with friends, whereas the Cal Poly administration may view a house as becoming an extension of the organization,” said Panhellenic President Danielle Durante.
  • Many satellite houses are passed down to new generations of Greeks year after year, and offer fun tradition and history.
  • Privacy is often lacking in a satellite house because members of the organization feel welcome to stop by the house often.
A Lambda Chi Alpha satellite house

Lambda Chi Alpha satellite house

So, what is a satellite house?

A house is considered a Greek satellite house when the majority of residents are associated with a specific sorority or fraternity. Passing down the house to new generations year after year offers a fun tradition for members. Others outside of the Greek community may feel that these unspoken agreements are unfair.

Many houses are owned by alumni of certain organizations; therefore, they only rent out to active members of their chapter. Other situations have unspoken agreements between non-affiliated landlords and a sorority or fraternity to keep a tradition.

Sarah Islas, third-year Business major and member of Gamma Phi Beta, believes that landlord agreements are not unfair because members of their organization have maintained a good relationship with the landlord. She appreciates the ability to pass down their home and have a positive reflection on their chapter.

Being a direct reflection of an organization

“Greeks may see themselves as simply living with friends, whereas the administration may view a house as becoming an extension of the organization,” said Panhellenic President Danielle Durante. By definition, members take on new responsibilities and potential liabilities just by living with others in their same organization.

Islas mentioned the pressures of living in a satellite house because neighbors recognize their house as a direct reflection of their sorority. She often feels that their house is held to higher standards because SLO residents “put a target” on their back.

With new party regulations, members of these organizations must be aware of how much fun they are having. Fraternities must now register their satellite houses in order to host parties at them. The definition of a party is anything that happens at their house that an observer would associate with their chapter.

In recent news, Pi Kappa Alpha was blamed for a party that occurred during Greek life social probation. Although the Dean of Students, Jean DeCosta, determined that the party was not hosted by the fraternity, campus is considering this house on Chaplin Lane a Pi Kappa Alpha satellite house from now on because three members reside there.

Members of Pi Kappa Alpha living in a satellite house

Members of Pi Kappa Alpha living in a satellite house

The Cal Poly campus is still testing out these new regulations from Winter 2014 but are being enforced nonetheless.

Extension of their Greek organization

Having friends around much of the time is “both a blessing and a curse”, commented Islas. Apparently, lack of privacy is a common issue that has positive and negative aspects.

“Our house gets trashed and people come in at random times,” added Ian Lamond, member of Lambda Chi Alpha and Industrial Engineering major, on the lack of privacy within satellite houses. Although Lamond enjoys the company of his closest friends, it can be very frustrating during study hours.

Tenants of 'Playhouse' satellite house.

Tenants of ‘Playhouse’ satellite house

“Everyone has their good days, their bad days, and their personal lives and sometimes, it can be a lot to handle,” said Tori Baldassari, RPTA major, about living with a handful of people. Overall, they seem to get along and all tenants are on board for a second year of living together.

Living in a satellite house, or any house for that matter, can feel crowded and constantly busy. Similar to the dorms in which there are constantly people roaming around, tenants of satellite houses are never lonely.

Pros of living in a satellite house:

  • often close to campus
  • an additional home for members to congregate
  • living with close friends in the same organization
  • going to sorority/fraternity related events as a group
  • less rules and regulations
  • contant liveliness
  • reasonable price of rent
  • host parties and events

Cons of living in a satellite house:

  • direct reflection of Greek organizations
  • “open” house allows members to come and go freely
  • many roommates can be overwhelming
  • constant noise
  • less diversity

Different than official house

“This year, things are much more nonchalant,” said Islas. Having lived in the official Gamma Phi Beta house prior to living in ‘Playhouse’, Islas gives some insights into the difference between the two living situations.

Islas boasts her own room and is able to remove herself from social situations if need be. She only shares a house with 4 girls rather than 17, which could be overwhelming at times. Overall, tenants of the satellite house have to abide to less rules and regulations than the official house.

Additionally, live-ins at the official Gamma Phi Beta house are responsible for hosting large-scale events for their chapter. Visitors would often ask for a tour of the newly remodeled house which put pressure on the girls to constantly clean and look put-together.

Although Islas misses having meals prepared for her and access to a private pool, she has much more freedom, privacy, and independence at ‘Playhouse’.

Audio Q & A: Cal Poly Greek satellite houses

For those within the Greek community, satellite houses are an excellent option. They are easily attainable, often in great locations, and you get to live with your closest brothers or sisters. For others outside of Greek life, however, the concept of a satellite house can be unfair as landlords only rent out to their chosen fraternity.

Q: Define the concept of a satellite house. Do you think it’s unfair for landlords to only rent out to members of Gamma Phi Beta?

Sarah Islas, third-year Business major & member of Gamma Phi Beta

Sarah Islas is a third-year Business/Marketing major at Cal Poly and member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. She currently lives at a satellite house on Longview Dr with other members of her sorority. The satellite house, called Playhouse, is passed on year-to-year to other women within Gamma Phi.

“To me, a satellite house is a home where Greek members of the same organization live and willingly open their house for the benefit of their chapter. It’s not necessarily a registered, official house that belongs to nationals but it’s more of an informal living situation that’s traditionally held by active members so that their Greek organization has another warm place to congregate. For a sorority, I think it’s rare that just one physical house can fulfill all the needs of making a large number of girls feel comfortable and included. I think that’s why satellite houses, like the one I live in, are important to keep Greeks cohesive and inclusive.

If the landlord has had good past experiences with girls from our organization, then they’d want to continue that tradition. I think it reflects really positively on Greek life that local landlord see us as respectful and responsible tenants and I’m glad that we can refer each other in housing situations because it’s good for networking.”

Q: What do you like and dislike about living in a satellite house?

Marcus Alman, fourth-year in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity

Marcus Alman is a fourth-year Agricultural Communications major and member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Cal Poly. He lives with eight of his brothers on Grand Ave at a satellite house. Marcus was able to join Pike as a sophomore at Cuesta before transferring to Cal Poly.

“My favorite part about living in the satellite house- one, is the fact that I get to live with my best friends but also the location. I mean, it’s always nice being able to  ten minutes prior to a class and get on campus on time. What I dislike most about living in a satellite house is definitely the lack of privacy. Sometimes it gets a little hectic with so many fraternity members coming in and out of the house, especially during midterms and dead week. That’s about it.”

Q: What is the appeal of living in a satellite house next year?

Katie Seybold, second-year Communications major and member of Alpha Phi

Katie Seybold is a second-year Communications major and member of the Alpha Phi chapter at Cal Poly. She lives in an apartment this year and hopes to live in an Alpha Phi satellite house next year with other girls in her sorority.

“Well, I really want to live in a satellite house because it’s super convenient. I’d be living with my closest friends, and ya know, the girls I spend the most time with. And it’s also convenient because a lot of the older girls in the sorority will hand down the houses, so that’s kinda how we pick where we live. The location is on Hath so it’s super close to campus, that helps. It’s a fun house.”

Apartments: the in between stage

For full list of apartments, townhomes, and condos, please go here.

Story highlights:

  • Apartments can be a transition between the dorms and a house.
  • Complexes are often a source parties and noise complaints.
  • Captain Staley says number of noise complaints has decreased in the last few years.
  • Distance to campus plays an important role in deciding where to live.
  • Mustang Village offers many more amenities than other complexes.

Living in an apartment is like a stepping stone into adulthood. It’s not quite living on your own but it’s the next step after the dorms.

Second-year Biology major, Molly Fraser, explained how many apartments still retain a sense of community like the dorms. Often times, tenants of a building create a Facebook page for general communication and organizing group events, said Fraser.

Apartments create an easy transition because of on-site staff and free access to maintenance help. Complexes with security guards help students stay safe and avoid interaction with police by solving the problem beforehand.


Residents of Lee Arms apartments using a Slip ‘N Slide

Party vibes

Of course, not every student who lives in these complexes falls under the stereotype that they participate in the party scene; however, these areas of SLO are often loud and crowded with students on weekends.

Top 5 party apartment complexes in SLO:

  1. Lee Arms
  2. Pike Apartments (Campus Pointe)
  3. Cedar Creek  – ‘ The Jungle’
  4. Sagrado Townhomes
  5. Carhill Condos

Regarding the party scene in Lee Arms, Connor Millslagle, second-year Civil Engineering major, said, “It bothers me when it’s at unreasonable hours and random days like Tuesday. I wish I lived somewhere with less party vibes.” Although weekends are fun, the noise can be distracting during study hours.

Tam Le, third-year Architecture major, who lives in Carhill said “it is the perfect amount of noise and silence”, which doesn’t bother her. Thicker interior walls help isolate the noise to individual apartments.

“I can play music as loud as I want, but not many people want to come party in Glen Mar”, Tom Nork, second-year Journalism major commented about noise levels in Glen Mar apartments.

As for Cedar Creek Village, overcrowding in the infamous ‘Jungle’ most often occurs during Week of Welcome. Landlords are becoming increasingly aware of what happens on and around their properties. Boosting security and increasing fines are newly set consequences for tenants at Cedar Creek.

Captain Chris Staley of the SLO police department confirmed that most noise complaints come from larger apartment complexes like Cedar Creek, Mustang Village, and Kris Kar Townhomes; changing each year with a different set of students.

The SLO police department has made significant changes in recent years to lower the number of noise complaints around the Cal Poly campus. By issuing fines to the property managers as well as the tenants, the number of noise violations have decreased from 2800 to 1600 in six years, stated Staley.

“We are often surprised by how students act on weekends”, laughed Staley. In order to keep them safe, officers deal with noise complaints, fights, and the like. Staley says serving the community is “a rewarding experience”.

Lee Arms courtyard during Halloween weekend 2013

Lee Arms courtyard during Halloween weekend 2013

Distance to campus

The appeal of a living in an apartment situated around Foothill Blvd and California Blvd is its close proximity to the Cal Poly campus. Although second-year Agricultural Business student, Jack McKeon, has mediocre feelings about living in Foothill Gardens, he particularly enjoys the short walk to classes.

For Tam Le, not only are these apartments close to campus, but they are close to friends, parties, and grocery stores. Compared to her apartment on Grand Ave last year, Le takes advantage of her prime living location this year in Carhill.

Praise for Carhill

Carhill condos seem to be the perfect balance between a true home and a college experience. “I love how it feels so homey and inviting.. And that it came decorated and furnished,” said Benvenuto. Le said the tile decor makes her place look and feel nicer.

Unlike many apartments, Carhill boasts a dishwasher, two bathrooms, private washers and dryers, and an upstairs portion.

The overall nicer-than-average atmosphere of Carhill lets Benvenuto and her 3 roommates host small parties and festive dinners. The open kitchen and bar-style seating creates an inviting environment for get-togethers with friends.

Sayoa Jordar, second-year History major, unpacking groceries and preparing a meal.

Sayoa Jodar, second-year History major, unpacking groceries and preparing a meal.

The ups and downs of Mustang Village

Mustang Village has a reputation for being the ‘back-up, back-up’ living situation. While this may be true for some, others appreciate the many positive features it has to offer.

Situated on E Foothill Blvd across the train tracks, Mustang is a prime location for Cal Poly students headed to the Business building on campus. For only $400 a month, it is the cheapest place to live that close to campus.

Different from many housing situations, tenants are able to paint walls and bring pets in Mustang. Although there is dim lighting with little natural sunlight, these aspects give a more home-like feeling to the apartment.

Mustang Village amenities include:

  • private gym
  • pools
  • on-site laundry
  • study rooms w/ computers & Wi-fi
  • TV room
  • front office with tea & food
  • security guards
  • dishwasher
  • garbage disposal
  • water

As for the party scene, Nowlen says a lot of ‘day raging’ goes on with a plethora of cigarette smokers. Nowlen and her roommates don’t mind the noise because they are usually spending their free time elsewhere.

Stephanie Nowlen, second-year Business major, recommends only living in Mustang for a year. The wide variety of people living there often “seem not to care about school so it’s generally loud”, remarked Nowlen. Mustang houses both Cal Poly students and Cuesta College students.

photo 2

McKenzie Scarborough, second-year Environmental Soil Science major, vacuuming her living room in Campus Pointe (Pike) Apartments.

Tags: Carhill apartments, Lee Arms apartments, Glen Mar apartments, Sagrado apartments, Pike apartments SLO, Cedar Creek Village, the Jungle SLO, Mustang Village apartments

House hunters: SLO edition

Story highlights:

  • Craigslist is a good way to find houses
  • Houses feel more home-like than apartments
  • More room for activities
  • Sticky situations with landlords

First recommendation when it comes to housing in SLO: start early. With an ever-growing student population at Cal Poly, apartments and houses go off the market quickly. However, unlike apartments, finding the right house is all about connections and Craigslist.

Starting the search early

Often times, Craigslist in SLO is used to find a single roommate for temporarily subleasing a room. This is a convenient option for many who study abroad and only need housing in SLO for a few quarters.

Utilizing Craigslist helped Rebecca Scanlon, second-year Environmental Management and Protection major, and her four housemates find their ideal home for the upcoming school year. “We wanted to start our search early so that we didn’t end up stuck in Mustang like last year”, Scanlon explained.

Scanlon and her roommates discovered a house off of E Foothill Blvd. whose current tenants posted on Craigslist. The current residents plan to graduate from Cal Poly in June 2014 and hand down the house.

photo 1 (1)

Sara O’Reilly (left) and Rebecca Scanlon (right) entering their future home for the first time.

We wanted to start our search early so that we didn’t end up stuck in Mustang like last year.

The application process for this real estate agency is on a first come, first served basis assuming the applicants have quality references and a clean track record. A very excited Scanlon mentioned they were to sign the lease following their primary viewing of the house.

Transitioning from apartments

Mustang sometimes feels like a cave”, Scanlon said. Houses in general boast  many more windows than apartments do, bringing in more light and creating a well-lit atmosphere.

Sara O’Reilly, second-year Communications major, intends to share a room with Scanlon. Students who live farther from campus ride their bikes, take the bus, or park their cars on campus. O’Reilly and Scanlon are willing to sacrifice distance to the Cal Poly campus for size, luxury, and a quiet neighborhood.

Houses generally possess:

  • seclusion & privacy from neighbors
  • outdoor space
  • garden
  • on-site washer & dryer

“So much more room for activities”, third-year Agricultural Business major Sam Bucher mentioned as his favorite aspect of living in a house. Bucher and his housemates have a patio, barbecue, and fruit trees in their backyard.

Sam Bucher, Chris Doherty, and friends lounge on their patio.

Sam Bucher, Chris Doherty, and friends lounge on their patio.

More space, more people

However, living in a larger house has a downside as well, claims third-year RPTA major Chris Doherty. “It mostly sucks sharing the kitchen with that many people”, said Doherty. Doherty can find solace in his private room.

On the other hand, Bucher, who just returned to Cal Poly from studying abroad during the Fall quarter said, “I just got here, I’m soakin’ it all in”. Bucher thinks living in a big house with his closest friends is a fun way to spend his college experience.

Dealing with landlords

Unless you get lucky, many tenants have trouble communicating effectively with their landlords. “I live in an apartment this year and we don’t have any problems with our landlord, but I’ve heard horror stories about bad ones”, remarked Molly Fraser, second-year Biology major.

Having a stubborn landlord can be overwhelming. Doherty said their landlord is “very annoying, clinically insane”. Often times, she will show up at their house without notice to banter about the property. Reacting in a calm manner is the way to maintain a relationship for future references.

If noise violations are a potential concern, houses often bring more attention from police officers. Compared to apartments, houses tend to hold many more people and get out of hand easier. Noise violations are reported to landlords, which could ultimately lead to a bad reference or increased rent. Damages done to the home often result in the owner keeping the initial downpayment for repairs.

SLO Police Department incident report for December 2013 (Image source:

SLO Police Department incident report for December 2013 (Image source:

Tags: SLO PD, Craigslist, SLO landlords, Foothill housing, Chorro street housing, noise violations SLO

Dorms part 2? life at PCV

I felt like I wasn’t living the freshman experience in PCV because it’s so secluded and that made me not like Cal Poly.

Story highlights:

  • Monthly rent of $745 includes utilities and all amenities offered.
  • Residents find living in PCV to be “comfortable and easy”.
  • A strong focus on academics trumps a party scene.
  • Community advisors monitor sound in the apartments to create a quiet environment.

An empty Poly Canyon Village plaza on a rainy day

Like any living situation, Poly Canyon Village has its perks and its disadvantages. According to Natalie Bertolucci, a first-year Business major, the seclusion and lack of community within the apartments was a big enough concern for her to move out.

“I felt like I wasn’t living the freshman experience in PCV because it’s so secluded and that made me not like Cal Poly”. Bertolucci now resides in the Sierra Madre dorms, which tend to be more social.

A good fit for many

Of course, that is just one student’s experience. Karlee Fidler, second-year RPTA major, and Ben Ziomek, fifth-year Civil Engineering major, agreed that Poly Canyon Village is a great fit for those that prefer a quiet study environment and an easier transition from the dorms.

Monthly rent of $745 includes:

  • all utilities
  • Wi-Fi
  • weekly cleaning services
  • furniture
  • maintenance-related issues
  • laundry service
  • cable

Compared to many off-campus housing locations, students generally agree that PCV apartments are “nice”. Most importantly, residents feel “comfortable and safe” in their homes. Similar to dorms, access cards and security codes are implemented to ensure the well-being of residents.

Students appreciate the quiet atmosphere focused on academics. Vice President of Student Affairs, Keith Humphrey, has plans for new housing that could house all first-year and second-year students. The idea is that on-campus housing puts emphasis on academic success and discourages partying.

PCV faculty create a fun atmosphere by putting on many events with free food noted Marissa Roach, sophomore Nutrition major. Swimming pools and gaming rooms contribute to the recreational aspect of college life within PCV.

The village plaza is comprised of:

  • Jamba Juice
  • Einstein Bros Bagels
  • Tacos To-Go Mexican Grill
  • Village market
  • Canyon Post office
  • swimming pool
  • study lounges
  • basketball, volleyball courts
  • game room
Karlee Fidler, sophomore, watches TV in her PCV living room

Karlee Fidler, sophomore, watches TV in her living room

Resident complaints

Marissa Roach mentioned the awkwardness of random roommates as a common complaint among residents. Hotel-style buildings make it “harder to meet new people compared to the dorms”, Roach added.

For Fidler, the negative aspect of living in PCV is its distance from off-campus parties located around Hathway Avenue on weekends. When Fidler goes out, she always sleeps at a friend’s apartment to avoid the 30 minute walk home. Evidently, PCV is a great place to live for homebodies that enjoy nights in.

Having friends visit can present a problem if the Community Advisor (CA) thinks an apartment is too noisy. Similar to a Resident Advisor (RA), Fidler commented that “it’s weird because she’s the same age as us and she tells us what to do”.

Kristina Borges, second-year CA of Aliso building in PCV, declined to comment on the duties of her positions. According to the Cal Poly university housing website, advisors make rounds to apartments a few times each night.

“There’s more freedom to do what you want off-campus while here in PCV you’re always looking behind your back for campus enforcement.” Ziomek compared living situations as he lived off-campus prior to living on-campus.

Although PCV is considered an on-campus location, the walk to class is similar to many off-campus locations, around 10-15 minutes. Grocery shopping and exploring downtown San Luis Obispo are especially  difficult without a car, Roach and Fidler said, but they manage to keep up with life outside of PCV.

Poly Canyon Village sign on Village Drive

Poly Canyon Village sign on Village Drive

Tags: PCV, Poly Canyon Village, on-campus housing Cal Poly, Keith Humphrey, Sierra Madre dorms

Sorority Living — Gamma Phi Beta ‘Pink Palace’

Cal Poly SLO Delta Theta Chapter

Click on photos for captioned slideshow!